AFC South

AFC South: Best Division Contenders

Every year the theme seems to change on which National Football League division is better. Two years ago, you could have made a statement that it was the AFC West. Last year, you could have made a argument that it was the NFC North. The 2018 season kicks off in less then 80 days and as the season progresses time can only tell. However, the AFC South will be the best NFL division in 2018.

Photo Courtesy of StickPNG.com

We start off with the team that isn’t sure who their quarterback will be, the Indianapolis Colts. No telling what the Colts will do if Andrew Luck is unable to play once again this year. Luckily, Luck has established a new weekly throwing routine that will get him closer and ready for the season.

Like so many teams every year, the Colts will find themselves with a new leader. The Colts hired former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, coming off his Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots. Reich looked in the draft for some help on the offensive line and picked up Quenton Nelson, the highly sought out offensive tackle from Notre Dame. That has been the biggest issue for Indy, finding lineman that’s able to protect their franchise player.

Will Luck be able to stay healthy and surprise us all this year? It’s too early to tell but I have them finishing last in the AFC South.

 

 

Next up, the Houston Texans

Photo courtesy of Twitter.com

They are also getting their QB back just like the Colts. Before his torn ACL in November, Deshaun Watson was rookie of the year. Watson had an impressive 21 touchdowns in the seven games before the frightful injury. Watson threw a touchdown on 9.3 percent of his throws last year, which was best in the NFL last year.

The return of J.J. Watt will be a huge asset for that defense and I literally mean huge. He stands at 6’5 weighing 295 pounds. Unfortunately, the injury bug has gotten the best of the 29-year-old defensive end only playing eight games in the past two season. The addition of Watt on one side and Jadeveon Clowney on the other make for a scary pairing. The defensive line will be a threat against the run.

Let’s not forget the addition of the honey badger, Tyrann Mathieu that will wreak havoc over the best receivers in the league.

All that being said, this team should be a good team. My only concern is the running game, Lamar Miller was held under 1000 yards and only 3 TD’s. The Texas fall to third in the AFC South with a possible Wild Card spot.

 

Photo courtesy of Twitter.com

Third is the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans hired former Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as their 19th head coach in franchise history. The hiring of Dean Pees and Matt LaFleur as coordinators will be a nice piece for what already was a good playoff team.

It should be no surprise that the Titans should have another top-five defense this year. Additions like Malcolm Butler from New England and draftees Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry will be a force. The weakest piece on this defense belongs to the safeties. All-Pro safety Kevin Byard tied the league with 8 interceptions but he himself can’t do it all. The Titans are also expecting fifth-round pick Dane Cruikshank to emerge as the number two guy over Jonathan Cyprien.

It’s like a repeating cycle every time we talk about Marcus Mariota. What will he do wrong next? Mariota threw for 15 interceptions last year and they still made it to the second round of the playoffs. It looks as if Marcus seems to be healthy for the first time in his career with the Titans. The addition of running back Dion Lewis will help the passing, especially on those third-down plays.

The Titans used to have a power combo at running back with Chris Johnson and LenDale White known as “Smash and Dash”. Last year, they had the combo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The injuries to Murray were a setback and they released him. The addition of Lewis will be a compliment to Henry as he looks to be a breakout number one running back this year.

The Titans biggest struggle will be at the receiver position. Rishard Matthews emerged as the number one receiver last year as it seems everyone else struggled or was injured. The Titans are looking to make former first-round pick Corey Davis the number one guy if he stays healthy.

I like the Titans chances this year but they will once again be the second best in the division, most likely earning a Wild Card spot.

 

Last but not least, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Photo courtesy of FoxSports.com

It goes without question, they have the best defense in the NFL. As fans like to call it, “Welcome to Sacksonville”. Jacksonville definitely has proven they compete with the defenses of the Broncos and the Seahawks within the past years. You look at this defense and it’s very hard to figure out what their weakness is because well, they really don’t have any. The linebacking core would be the weakest but even at that spot, they are still very strong.

Jalen Ramsey has become the IT factor for that Jacksonville defense. Ramsey on one side and A.J. Bouye on the other. This will once again be a scary team to pass and run against.

The running game was incredible last year running it 527 times, best in the league. Leonard Fournette rushed for over 1000 yards and 9 TD’s last year. If that doesn’t blow your mind, it’s only going to get better adding all-pro guard Andrew Norwell to the mix. I had Fournette in fantasy last year and it’s probably going to be smart if I try and pick him up once again this year.

The biggest factor for the Jaguars is going to be the receiver position. They lost Allen Robinson last year to injury and lost him this offseason to the Cowboys. They don’t have that break-through receiver besides Marqise Lee, who will once again be a big surprise this year. Make sure to pick Lee up in fantasy.

You never know which Blake Bortles will show up each and every game. He can be the QB that can single handily win you the game or the one that loses it for you. If the Jaguars were to repeat once again this year as AFC South Champions, it’ll all depend on the work of Bortles.

I still see the Jaguars defense being too good to not win the AFC South. They have a good shot of even making the Super Bowl.

If you’re a fan of the AFC South, this will be your year. If you’re not hopping on the bandwagon, this will be the best division in football this year.

 

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Preston Bostain
Preston covers the Tennessee Titans and the AFC South for NGSC Sports. He also covers Nashville Predators hockey.
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  1. Pingback: The Patriots and the AFC East

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